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LATEST REVIEWS
SLAYGROUND
"Imperfect but Colorful Crime Tale"
4 stars
Jack Sommersby says... "Released on only 62 screens, its box-office take was a measly $154,469. Obviously, the studio had absolutely no faith in it, which is a shame because it, despite some missteps, it delivers the goods." (more)
PETE'S DRAGON (2016)
"Fantastic things in these woods."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... "A few years ago, a friend argued that a certain movie was not as good as it could be because it let the audience see its creatures right away rather than hiding them for a big reveal later, even though it wasn't about discovery. I was reminded of that when this new version of "Pete's Dragon" showed the dragon in the second or third scene, thinking that the kids that this movie was made for wouldn't have internalized those expectations based upon what used to be prohibitively expensive. That thought soon fled my mind, though - while the modern ability to put something fantastic on screen with relatively little restriction is a big part of what makes this film a delight, its big heart and the filmmakers' steady hands do even more to make this one of the best family films to come out in a year that has had plenty." (more)
TIME RAIDERS
"Keep searching for Chinese treasure."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Treasure-hunting stories are currently pretty big in China, and though it's tempting to see something about a nation with a very specific present and targeted future reconciling with a long, very different past, we don't do that with Indiana Jones. Those movies are just extremely well-built adventures. "Time Raiders" isn't quite so well-built - it's a jumble of things found in cliffhanging adventure stories that takes their awesomeness for granted rather than building something greater than the sun of their individual joys - but when you're in the middle of a tomb raider craze, this can scratch the itch." (more)
LINE WALKER
"Ah, looks like there was one more undercover agent."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "It's not exactly fair, but you say "Hong Kong crime movie with lost undercover cops", and my head's going to go to "Infernal Affairs", which, as an all-time classic, is setting the bar pretty high, when it's probably enough just to be a decent enough cops and crooks movie. "Line Walker: The Movie", is no "Infernal Affairs"; for all I know, it's not even up to the standard of the TV series that launched it. On the other hand, there ain't no shootout like a Hong Kong shootout, and this does deliver the crime-movie goods quite nicely when it gets down to it." (more)
SPACEMAN (2016)
"Southpaws are odd ones, though that's not always enough."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Say this for writer/director Brett Rapkin - not a lot of folks have made a documentary feature and then been able to return to the subject for a narrative one. Off the top of my head, that puts him on a short list with Werner Herzog and a few others. Not at the top of the list or anywhere near it, since this year's "Spaceman", at least, is just an average sports bio, but there's a little something to be said for both practice and for doing movies about things that hold one's attention over a long period." (more)
KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS
"Forget The Cute Quote--Go And See This"
5 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "As has been noted before, this past summer was not exactly a particularly robust one for moviegoers, especially those looking for something that might entertain the entire family. Sure, “Finding Dory” was quite good but it inevitably lacked the uniqueness of the original. Meanwhile, Steven Spielberg’s wildly overhyped “The BFG” was a tonal mess that never quite came together while the likes of “The Secret Life of Pets” and “Ice Age 5” were dispiriting drags that failed to work on any level, though the box office failure of the latter suggests that even little kids starved for entertainment have their limits. And yet, in the dog days of August—a time when families are more focused on returning to school than in hitting the multiplex—two of the very best family films in recent years have appeared in as many weeks. Last week, you will recall, saw the release of “Pete’s Dragon,” a remake of the lumbering 1977 Disney behemoth that turned out to be a funny, touching and exciting work that was everything that “The BFG” wished that it was. As good as that film is, this week’s “Kubo and the Two Strings” might actually be even better—a visually stunning and dramatically exciting fantasy epic for all ages that puts most of the bombastic would-be blockbusters of the last few months to shame." (more)
WAR DOGS
"Bros In Arms"
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "When a filmmaker has a string of enormous box-office hits, they eventually get to that rarefied position where they can pretty much take on any project that they want, regardless of their suitability for it, and the studios will pony up tons of cash to let them do it in the hopes that lightning will strike once again. In the case of Todd Pihillips, the success of such films as “Old School,” “Due Date” and, of course, the inexplicably popular “Hangover” trilogy gave him an enormous amount of capital within the industry and he has chosen to invest much of it in “War Dogs,” a dark comedy that deals with subjects that most viewers would hardly view as amusing and most studios would hardly consider to be much of a audience lure—arms dealing, the war in Iraq, corruption and the complexities of the military-industrial complex among them. This is the kind of exceptionally tricky material that requires an exceedingly deft directorial touch if it is to have any chance of working and if there are three words that one could use to describe Phillips and his oeuvre, “deft directorial touch” would probably not rank very high on anyone’s list. As a result, “War Dogs” is a bloated and lumbering misfire that is neither especially funny nor edifying and seems to have nothing on its mind except to demonstrate that Phillips has indeed seen the films of Martin Scorsese, though he apparently failed to absorb what it was that made them work." (more)
OPERATION CHROMITE
"Tries for global appeal, falls short."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... "It's no secret that South Korean entertainment companies have been looking to access the American market directly the same way that China and India do, even if they are more trying to translate their industry's great reputation into an audience the size that they feel it deserves than serve a large expatriate and emigrant population. Inserting a familiar western face into a movie is one way to get it a higher American profile, although audiences going to "Operation Chromite" under the impression that it stars Liam Neeson will likely be disappointed, though in a different way than folks looking for a truly great Korean War movie." (more)
MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING (2016)
"Recreate the broad strokes but not the details."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... "I get why Chinese filmmakers have been remaking English-language romantic comedies a lot over the last few years; these are fun, crowd-pleasing stories that work better if there's some familiarity to the fantasy. Still, it's kind of weird to remake "My Best Friend's Wedding" with Chinese stars speaking Mandarin and then set it in London, right? It's the sort of thing that maybe makes one wonder if this hasn't been thought all the way through." (more)
HOLY FLAME OF THE MARTIAL WORLD
"Yin, yang, magic swords, and forceful laughs."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2016 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The Shaw Brothers kung fu movies of the 1980s got pretty strange - between the competition from Golden Harvest with their new young stars like Jackie Chan on one side and the western sci-fi/fantasy movies like "Star Wars" being imported to Hong Kong on the other, the venerable studio had to make some pretty crazy things to stand out. "Holy Flame of the Martial World" is not the most insane thing to come out in Shawscope during that time, it's unusual in that it plays as a pretty good movie when a lot were gluing fight scenes and special effects together and hoping that something entertaining came about." (more)

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